On Thursday, a major fuel crisis in Malabar during Easter week was averted after the district administration brokered peace between tanker lorry workers and their contractors over a long-simmering dispute for revised wage structure.
“If the supply had stopped, the entire Malabar area would have been in deep crisis. We decided to call an urgent meeting, despite it being a holiday. Both the workers’ trade unions and contractors’ association were requested to attend in public interest,” Additional District Magistrate (ADM) K. P. Ramadevi told The Hindu.
She had presided over the three-hour long meeting to reach a consensus to revise the wages of tanker lorry workers.
“The salary of tanker lorry drivers has been increased by Rs.1,100 and that of a cleaner by Rs. 650. This arrangement would continue for the next three months until fresh tenders are called for,” the ADM said.
Sources in the administration revealed that the ADM’s emergency meeting was called as a last resort to pacify the workers after crisis deepened with the workers declaring an indefinite strike this morning, leaving supply of fuel to the northern region of the State in a tizzy.
The 300-strong tanker lorry workers in the district are a vital part of the fuel - petrol, diesel and kerosene - supply mechanism to five northern districts – Kozhikode, Kannur, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kasaragod.
They are associated with over 230 tanker lorries operating from the Indian Oil Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum depots located at Feroke and Elathur here. The two depots are major sources of fuel distribution in the region.
“Our demand was to revise the wage structure under the Motor Transport Workers Payment of Fair Wages Act. Secondly, the workers are usually given a 20 per cent commission for every tanker load. Our demand was to increase this commission by 2 per cent,” K. Devaraj, a trade union leader, said.
A similar meeting on Wednesday with the Regional Joint Labour Commissioner had ended in failure.
“I had presided over a marathon session with the workers and their employers the whole of yesterday. The workers had initially asked for a 5 per cent increase from the current 20 per cent commission per load. They then brought it down to 2 per cent hike. They also wanted a 10 per cent increase in their salary structure too. The contractors had refused and meeting ended with no decision taken,” K. Sreeshan, Regional Joint Labour Commissioner, Kozhikode, said.